Do You Have a Winning Sourcing Strategy?

What’s your company’s sourcing strategy? Do you have a target audience in mind you want to hire, and do you have the appropriate plans, tactics, and resources in place to pull it off? If you do, you probably have this strategic plan written out with the trade-offs analyzed and argued about and each sourcing channel then optimized to produce results. Of course, before it was implemented, the plan was presented to your senior management with all of the ROI “guesstimates” for approval.

If you don’t have this type of sourcing strategy process in place, you might find this article of interest.

A few weeks ago, we took a quick online survey of 200 recruiters and recruiting managers. The results shown below set the stage for the need for a sourcing strategy:

  1. Eighty percent said they were not seeing enough top people.
  2. Eighty percent were seeing a significant decline in the quality of the candidates coming from the major job boards.
  3. Ninety percent said their primary online advertising piece was a posted copy of the traditional skills-based job description (this is sure to excite a top person with multiple opportunities).
  4. Only 10% indicated they had a comprehensive sourcing strategy in place designed to find and recruit top performers.
  5. Only 7% indicated they had a comprehensive workforce plan in place.
  6. Only 4% said they used detailed Web analytics to track their career website and advertising effectiveness.

In my opinion, recruiting top talent is very similar to marketing a specialty or premium product to a sophisticated and finite target audience. Based on the above survey, it’s clear that most recruiting leaders don’t see it the same way. If you’re not seeing enough top people now and things seem to be deteriorating, you might want to consider implementing some type of consumer marketing strategy.

It’s pretty clear that the hunt for talent is getting more competitive. Equally clear is that most companies don’t have a formal strategy in place designed to meet this challenge head on. Without thinking, many companies use either a “follow the herd” or “shot-gun” strategy by default. This is a sure-fire way to hire average people: just do what everybody else does.

Even if it doesn’t work, it’s safe, non-controversial, and you won’t get fired. However, by not following the herd, and taking a little risk, you actually might be able to increase your share of the dwindling supply of top talent.

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In addition to the “shot gun” and “follow the herd,” here are four basic sourcing strategies that actually might improve things for you:

  1. Employer-of-choice. Companies that are dominant in their industry or have the potential to be should establish themselves as great places to work. This is the ideal strategy to get top people attracted to a company without worrying too much about the details. This needs to be a top-down, CEO-driven strategy that affects every aspect of the company’s business. This means the company is on the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list and is seen as a difference-maker in its market. If you qualify as an employer-of-choice, but aren’t seen as one yet, this is a great strategy to ensure top candidate supply is greater than demand.
  2. Leap-frogging or early adopter. This strategy is based on the idea that to get a head start on the competition, you should become an early adopter of every new sourcing idea and technique that becomes available. If you’re the first to try everything out, you’ll probably get a few extra great candidates. Then, as soon as diminishing returns set in, jump to the next new idea. This way, you’ll always be ahead of the pack. While I wouldn’t advocate this leap-frogging approach as a primary strategy, it’s certainly a worthy interim approach.
  3. Targeted. The idea here is that a company should narrow its focus to be sure that it’s hiring the best people for all mission-critical and strategic positions. This is a good strategy to adopt if you’re not an employer of choice but want to become a dominant player in a niche market. Once you’ve demonstrated success here you can leverage this strategy across the whole company.
  4. Sequenced, multi-channel. This is the end-game strategy. When you’ve arrived here you made hiring top talent a systematic business process throughout the whole organization. The idea behind this is that all sourcing channels should be optimized and managed in some logical, measured, and business-like fashion. The foundation of this is a position-by-position analysis in combination with appropriate messaging and technology supporting each channel. From a marketing perspective, this is very comparable to the development of a distribution or channel strategy.

As you ponder these strategies, here are some other ideas to consider as you develop a sourcing strategy for your company:

  1. Understand your company’s business strategy. This will determine the types of people critical to your company’s short and long-term growth. For example, if your company has a low-cost operational efficiency strategy, then you need people who are great in improving processes and driving costs out of production. If your company’s strategy is based on product innovation, you need to hire the best people who can design and market these types of products.
  2. Prepare a rolling workforce plan. This needs to include a quarterly forecast of all your hiring requirements by position updated every 90 days always looking out one full year. This forecast should tie out to your company’s strategic plan and the annual operating plan. As the forecast is updated, keep track of overall hiring needs and any big changes by quarter. These changes are early signals that you’ll need to change your sourcing plans. A full-year forecasting process like this provides enough time to plan rather than react to unexpected changes.
  3. Categorize all hiring needs into quality levels. Classify all of your hiring requirements by position into some type of ABC grouping, with an A indicating a critical, top 5% to 10% person. This classification should be based on the importance of each job class or position in relation to the company’s overall business strategy. For non-critical positions, you should always target hiring the top-third as the minimum quality standard.
  4. Develop sourcing strategies for each class of job. Create tactical plans that map how the best people in each job classification look for work. Once you do this, you’ll realize that the best people do not start a job hunt by looking for a specific job at a specific company with a specific title. Instead, the best people first select a group of target companies looking at culture fit and growth opportunities. This is why Talent Hubs are becoming more important for this “warm-up” sourcing stage. So, if your primary sourcing tactic is to drive people to a specific job and boring job description, don’t be surprised if you’re not seeing enough top people. Also, make sure you understand the criteria top people use when selecting one job over another. You’ll use this information to create collateral material and redesign each step in your hiring process. Assemble a compensation strategy for each class of job. For example, knowing that the best people will accept a bigger job with better growth opportunities for less compensation, you’ll need to ensure that this message comes across in your website and in each interview.
  5. Optimize each sourcing channel. An effective sourcing program needs to encompass four basic tactics. These include the development of a proprietary database of resumes in combination with some CRM technology; a proactive employee referral program; a search engine optimized online career website using talent hubs and niche job boards; and some form of direct sourcing and networking using inside and outside recruiters. The key to success with these channel strategies is to ensure they’re optimized to produce the best candidates possible. For example, putting a boring job on a job board that can’t be found is a waste of time and money. Significant effort should be spent reengineering these channels to make sure that they work as intended. Follow this basic rule of recruiting: if you’re doing what everyone else is doing, it won’t work.

While this is just the tip of the iceberg in describing how a sourcing strategy needs to be developed, the real point of this article should be very clear: formal, well-considered plans and strategies should drive sourcing tactics, not the other way around.

A bunch of tactics based on a reactive approach to filling requisitions is not a sourcing strategy.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


3 Comments on “Do You Have a Winning Sourcing Strategy?

  1. Idea #5 hits the mark.

    ‘Optimize each sourcing channel. An effective sourcing program needs to encompass four basic tactics.’

    Most companies I see that have a failing recruiting plan only focus on one approach and then blame the recruiters or the job boards. Companies must realistically address all avenues if they have any chances of finding the best talent.

    Senior Management! Listen up, build recruiting plans as you would a marketing/sales plan to launch a new product line. You wouldn’t just rely only one form of advertising, would you?

  2. This article hits the major points and develops targeted marketing strategies. But the reason these copmanies don’t have a sourcing stategy or continue to use job boards even though they say they are ineffective is that they have not bought into the severity of the talent crisis. They are still “buying talent” – no shortage !

    When they aknowlege the talent crisis and their survival depends on a comprenhensive startegy then they will adopt the points in your article .

    Ira kaufman

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